Back in 2018, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) flew away from The Walking Dead into a planned trilogy of spin-off movies, announced the night of his final episode. Since then, very little concrete information about the movies has come out, but we do know that, at long last, the first movie is moving forward as planned. Here's what we know for sure — and what we think might happen when the movie does finally reach screens.
The coronavirus is the biggest thing holding production back right now. "We're coming along in a big way. We're just in this particular space where we have [to wait]," the Skybound Entertainment co-founder and Walking Dead executive producer David Alpert said during the virtual Skybound Xpo panel Skybound: Past, Present, and Future on July 19, per ComicBook.com. "We can't shoot right now, so that's just the big thing holding us back. We are desperate to get back into production, and get everything going, but we have something really exciting, really unique, really different, and can't wait to get it going. We just have to wait for it to be safe."
"There's tons of stuff going on behind the scenes. I don't want anyone to think that we're just kind of waiting around for this pandemic to end," The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman said during the panel. "I would say that, if anything, the pandemic is going to make a lot of movies better. I think the Rick Grimes movie chief among them, just because we're getting a lot more time to cook this thing and make sure it's perfect. But when things do quiet down, you guys are going to hear a ton more about this movie."
They're a trilogy of theatrically released movies. The first movie is being written by The Walking Dead franchise chief content officer Scott Gimple and is tentatively scheduled for a 2020 release. Comics author Kirkman — who ended the comic series on which the show is based in the summer of 2019 — is said to be heavily involved.
The original plan was for the films to premiere on television platforms, but at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, producers confirmed the features will get a theatrical release, via distributor Universal. The news was broken through a short animated teaser shown during The Walking Dead's panel, which showed a helicopter flying toward a city skyline. (It doesn't look like it's Indianapolis.) The teaser ends with the text "Rick Grimes Returns, Only in Theaters."
We know where it will start. The first movie will pick up where Rick's The Walking Dead story left off, with a gravely wounded Rick being spirited away in a helicopter that bears an emblem with three interlocking rings to an unknown place that will be different than anywhere we've seen before. In the chopper with him are Anne, previously known as Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), and some mysterious people we now know a little bit about thanks to Fear the Walking Dead (more on that later). McIntosh has played it coy about whether or not Jadis will be in the movie, but Gimple has straight-up confirmed it.
They'll end Rick Grimes' story. Andrew Lincoln left the show to spend more time with his family in England, so the movies are a compromise to let him out of the franchise while bringing his character's arc to a satisfying conclusion. He will not be back on the show.
We don't know who else will be in it, but we have some ideas. Most obviously, there's Danai Gurira, who exited The Walking Dead in Season 10, but, like Lincoln, might be willing to take on the less time-intensive movie commitment. Her character, Michonne, found evidence that the father of her son RJ and adopted daughter Judith (Cailey Fleming) was still alive and had been in New Jersey, and went off on a journey in search of him, meeting characters played by Mr. Mercedes' Breeda Wool and social media star Andrew "King Bach" Bachelor and joining a huge caravan of survivors heading north. At the time of her final episode, there was no deal in place for her next move so nothing was announced, but Scott Gimple said that her story wasn't finished.
Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride have reportedly signed contracts that will allow them to move between the mothership show and other Walking Dead universe properties, which could include Rick Grimes movies as well as any number of other potential projects. Back in Season 7, before we even met her on screen, Jadis gave Heath (Corey Hawkins) to the helicopter people, so Heath will probably already be wherever Rick is going — that is, if Hawkins is able to return. And a character we met on Fear the Walking Dead, Isabelle (Sydney Lemmon), may show up. About that...
Fear the Walking Dead told us a lot about where Rick is going. In Season 5, Episode 5, the spin-off introduced a character from the same community that took Rick Grimes. Isabelle is a soldier and scout who came to Texas in a helicopter identical to the one that took Rick Grimes in search of... something. We don't know what she was looking for, but she told her dispatcher that she found it. We know from The Walking Dead that the community divides the people it takes in as "A" or "B," which seems to mean "strong" or "weak." (Rick is a B due to his injury.)
Isabelle's community of the three rings is in Indiana and seems more technologically advanced than others we've seen, as she was wearing a bite-proof uniform and carrying a growler-killing trident. She told Al (Maggie Grace) that her community is building for the future, and she's a true believer in whatever the community's mission is. We don't know exactly what that is, but after meeting Isabelle, it seems less nefarious than it did, because while she was able to unemotionally kill her friend in the name of operational security, she grew to care about Al and spared her life.
If anyone from Fear crosses over to the movies, it could be Al, who established a romantic connection with Isabelle and may want to see her again even though Isabelle told her not to look for her. A fan theory, however, holds that Al will take Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) with her in search of Isabelle, because Alicia is sick from exposure to irradiated walker blood, and Indiana's advanced medical capabilities may be her best hope for recovery. Maybe she'll meet Rick in the infirmary.
The Indiana community bears some resemblance to a community in the comics called the Commonwealth, which is based in Toledo, Ohio, and has a standing army with advanced uniforms, among other trappings of a more stable society than what we've seen in the shows' post-apocalyptic vision so far. No spoilers, but the Commonwealth becomes a very important place for Rick and Michonne, along with many other characters, including Maggie and Dwight.
Comicbook.com estimates that Isabelle met Al around six months before Rick Grimes left Virginia.
Another branch of this same community will be featured in the upcoming spin-off The Walking Dead: World Beyond, which will probably connect to the Rick Grimes movies, too, perhaps by the time it ends after two seasons. That show's characters seem to be headed toward New York, which is very close to New Jersey. Will we see Rick Grimes in the Big Apple?
More will be revealed. This post will be updated as we learn more about the Rick Grimes trilogy.
The Walking Dead will air its Season 10 finale on AMC later this year, and has been renewed for Season 11.